Tasting Room Landscapes in the 2020s

Tasting Room Landscapes in the 2020s

Wineries on the California Central Coast have had their share of curveballs dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, but some have been well-suited to adapt to changing times. The tasting room experience could be considered even more valuable today for its ability to give visitors a relaxed, open-air experience as a respite from the headlines. As a follow up to our 2018 article Five Landscape Design Tips for California Central Coast Tasting Rooms we caught up with two notable winery leaders to see how the landscapes were faring in the pandemic.

In spring of 2020, all wineries were forced to halt in-person tastings for 10 weeks. When wineries could reopen, they were limited to providing tastings in outdoor spaces by and with proper social distancing. June McIvor of Tolosa Winery said they had to reduce their outside capacity somewhat to accommodate distancing requirements and they began offering online reservations in addition to the phone and email reservations they had already been encouraging. The winery shifted lounge spaces to tables and spread them out for proper spacings and reduced maximum group size. The variety of patio spaces and strategically located small planters provided the flexibility to adapt their space and fit people.

June reports the winery is welcoming many new guests from population hubs in Northern and Southern California who are traveling by car to vacation on the Central Coast. Locals and visitors alike are “looking for normalcy” and she feels that the relaxed atmosphere of tasting wine in a beautiful garden patio is greatly appreciated. She remarks, “We are grateful we renovated,” and because of thoughtful pre-pandemic design they are well-positioned to adapt to pandemic constraints.

Damian Grindley of Brecon Estate also had to rethink the outdoor table layout for tastings and reservations and has seen similar success. Surprisingly, he had considered moving to reservations-only prior to COVID-19. The requirement forced Brecon Estate into a reservation system early but with little pushback. He correlates reservations with better customer satisfaction because of a more controllable experience with adequate staffing to the reservation load. Satisfied customers will buy more wine.

The “relaxed Central Coast” vibe of Brecon Estate draws in locals and visitors with the goal of making customers feel welcome and comfortable. As far as the winery renovation and landscape built in the last six years, he says, “we almost could not have designed it better.” The comfortable outdoor spaces and detached outdoor restroom building worked out particularly well for COVID-19 restrictions.

With the respite wineries provide, demand for outdoor tasting room space will continue into the winter. Tolosa Winery has extended their outdoor tasting room season using tents for weather protection. Brecon has room for tents but is considering alternative layouts for patio design with tents in mind. A couple of feet one way or the other can make the difference for a great fit.

With outdoor tasting areas at a premium, savvy wineries will put thought into providing comfortable usable spaces for winter weather.

Here are five tips for wineries that are thinking of renovating their tasting room landscapes to accommodate customers looking for a great experience.

Ask A Designer – FAQ

Ask A Designer – FAQ

Making the decision to commit to a new landscape overhaul project for your home can be daunting. Especially if you haven’t done a remodel project before, there can be a lot of “unknowns” when taking on such a huge hunk of home improvement. Our landscape designers do their best to guide clients through every step – making it as seamless, painless, and stress-free as possible. Every project is different and has its own unique variables, but the basic questions we are asked most at the beginning of the landscape process are often the same. We asked our designers to elaborate on some of their most-asked questions, and shed light on some important topics to discuss with your potential landscape team! 

 

 

How much information/direction does a designer need from the client?

The more information you can share up front with your designer, the more likely they will be able to design an incredible landscape that reflects your personal flair while including desired/ required elements. We love hearing about what styles and elements you do and don’t like so we know what direction to start with on your design. Things like Pinterest and Houzz boards can be super helpful for this. On the flipside, there’s also no shame in not knowing what you want – that’s what we’re here for! Whether you know exactly what you’re looking for, or not, the most helpful thing you can do throughout the design process is provide your feedback. We try very hard to customize each design project to the personality and needs of each client, so when we go through our concept and revision meetings, we want to hear what you really think. Honest feedback during our meetings is the best way to help us give you the design you’ve been dreaming of!

How far ahead should we plan our project?

When planning a landscape project, it’s important to think ahead. Timing will be different based on whether you are building a new home or updating an existing landscape.

For new construction projects, you can count on landscaping to be the final step- just like the frosting on a cake. Sometimes designers work concurrently with architects and civil engineers on landscape plans, but it’s best for your designer to have a finalized plan with building footprint and finished grading to work from. Be sure that your general contractor helps plan for landscaping by adding sleeving underneath any concrete or asphalt for future irrigation pipe. Planned correctly, landscape installation can begin during the final construction stages.

When updating an existing landscape, planning is more flexible. The best time to plant in our region is fall, so that root systems can develop over the winter months. Construction crews can book out anywhere from 2-6 months in advance, so make sure to get on your builder’s radar early. This is one major benefit of working with design/build companies like Madrone.

Check with your local municipality to find out if you need any permits for your landscape. Shade structures that are attached to your home or are built within a certain proximity to your home may need to be permitted. There may be water usage allowances for irrigation, and permits are often required for graywater irrigation systems. Permit filings can take 6+ weeks to be processed once received.

What is the design process and how long does it typically take?

The design process is the time that you, the client, spend with a landscape designer on the conceptual vision of your outdoor space. Every designer or firm has a unique process, but generally will start with visiting your site and asking questions about your needs.

Once the designer has developed an understanding of your project, they will create an overall layout on paper, then gradually start to specify treatments, finishes and building techniques as ideas are approved.

At the end of the process, the owner will receive a complete set of construction documents which will serve as a tool for estimating construction cost and to ultimately guide the installation.

The length of time spent on design will vary based on size of project, number of built elements, complexity of site constraints, and the number of changes made during the process. If a design isn’t agreed on at the first or second draft, more revisions may be necessary. Most landscape designs can be completed from start to finish within 3-6 months, while others can take up to a full calendar year.

At what point will we know how much our desired landscape costs?

Our design process includes using cost information as a tool to help guide design decisions. Once we’ve established our initial concept plan, our next step is to revise and refine the landscape plan and provide the client with budgetary installation prices. This estimate includes individual line item descriptions, quantities, and costs for every element of the project. This means you can see clearly where every dollar is being spent, and where there are opportunities to substite materials or methods with less expensive alternatives, without sacrificing functionality.

How much does a landscape cost? What are the variables?

The cost of a new installed landscape can vary widely. Just like designing a house, with all things being equal, it will cost more to design a large area than a small one. The price then increases depending on how many built elements you want to include and the types of materials you choose.

Click here for a basic outline of some of defining elements that will ultimately determine the cost of your landscape design and installation.

While these are some of our most frequently asked questions, we understand that there are always specifics to address throughout the design process. But, when it all comes together, a blank dirt lot can become a whole new outdoor experience full of life, laughter, and quality time with each other (and nature)! 

Our Design Services page here has a lot of useful information as well, but if you have further inquiries, you can always call our office and a friendly staff member will assist you! 

Design Styles for the Central Coast

Design Styles for the Central Coast

by Jules Welch

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when looking at an empty plot of land or a back yard in disrepair. Luckily for homeowners, HOA’s, and commercial property owners, landscape designers see your space as a blank canvas—a unique opportunity to meld function with artistic expression. Design style plays a huge part in every built environment, and often incorporates a colorful mix of the owner’s personality, designer’s aesthetic, and greater climatic and cultural context. Some design styles that are popular for our coastal California area include:

                -Contemporary/Minimalist

                -English Cottage/Craftsman

                -Xeriscape/Native/Low Water

                -Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival

There is a lot of overlap when it comes to style, but certain core characteristics define each aesthetic. Read more about these traits to find out what speaks to you:

Contemporary/Minimalist:

Colloquially described as “modern” design, contemporary landscapes are influenced by mid-century modern art and architecture but are defined by their cutting-edge qualities for the present day (which, technically, could be any style). However, when someone refers to a contemporary landscape, they are likely describing a geometric style which features minimalism, clean lines, and grid layouts. Contemporary design is often used in commercial projects such as campuses, plazas, and office buildings; it may also be used to complement custom homes. These landscapes generally favor green foliage over colorful flowers, with intentional spacing and simple hardscapes like concrete or pea gravel.

Gain Inspiration: Andrea Cochran is a renowned Bay Area designer known for her spacious designs with an emphasis on form.

English Cottage/Craftsman:

English Cottage Gardens came into their own during the industrial revolution, when families fled city life for remote holiday cottages in the country. This mix of ideologies brought a unique design sense which mixes the formal with the chaotic. English cottage gardens can be identified by their overgrown, lush look, usually incorporating lawn and border plantings among tightly-grouped flowering perennials.

Gain Inspiration: Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was known for her craftsman inspired cottage gardens, using color “rooms” to achieve dynamic and natural mass plantings.

Xeriscape/Native/Low Water:

Xeriscape is a style of landscape design which requires minimal irrigation and maintenance, focusing on efficient use of water. Often using native and native-adjacent plants, these water-wise gardens tend to evoke an arid, desert feel. Gravel, cactus, and decomposed granite are the keystone elements of a xeriscape. Designers also incorporate sustainable water-harvesting elements such as planted swales and rain gardens into their xeriscapes. Native California gardens can still look lush, colorful, and attractive, while still retaining their drought-tolerant, low maintenance qualities.

Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival:

Most coastal regions in California have a Mediterranean climate, meaning that numerous plant species from Southern France, Italy, and Spain thrive here! Mediterranean design styles bring lavender, olive trees, and Italian cypress into California’s landscape. It is also the origin of our incredible wine culture. Often using plaza-style patios, pavers, vines, and potted plants, Mediterranean design makes the most of sun/shade, views, and crops. Sometimes used to describe Spanish Colonial Revival style, these gardens often incorporate stucco walls, tile, and cooling water features. Symmetry and striking, sculptural plants with colorful foliage often come into play.

What’s your Design Style?

Design style can be subtle or overt, but it is responsible for the feeling we get in an outdoor environment, whether familiar or obscure, nostalgic or innovative, cozy or vast. Most importantly, though, it’s what makes home feel like home.

All About Design-Build Landscape Construction

All About Design-Build Landscape Construction

A better investment and landscape, from design through construction

 

What is Design-Build Landscaping?

Design-Build landscaping is quite common. Unfortunately, a homeowner or building owner will often hire a landscape contractor to install plants and irrigation without design. This is not the ideal scenario. As with any type of building, it is always best to begin with a design.  When you hire a landscape team that does both design and installation, that is design-build landscaping.

Why Design-Build?

When done by experienced professionals, the teamwork involved in the design-build process for landscape construction can add a lot of value to your finished landscape. Often an integration of architects, designers, engineers, and builders, the design-build process takes advantage of professional, licensed experts working together from concept to finished construction. The goal of this integrated process is to fulfill your priorities of landscape design and budget. At Madrone Landscapes we believe strongly in the design-build process because the benefits are twofold: it allows us to do incredible work with and build great relationships with both our peers and our clients.

Two Major Types of Landscape Construction: What are the Differences?

Design-Bid-Build: The design-bid-build process is common in the construction industry for clients who want separate design and construction firms. A landscape designer will provide plans for you, and then you will ask contractors to bid the plans. The design can go quickly if there are no cost limitations discussed. Once the contractors provide their costs to install the project, you may be shocked to see how much it will cost to build. This is when you or the contractor decides how to change the design to fit within the construction budget (this process is called value engineering, where items are removed from a plan or less expensive options are chosen to reduce overall cost). You may also go back to the landscape designer to re-design (typically for an extra fee). In design-bid-build, you select a contractor based on the bid price. It then becomes your responsibility to orchestrate all of the design and construction activities – including introducing the contractor to the designer.

Design-Build: At Madrone Landscapes, we specialize in the design-build process. We provide construction cost estimates during the design process (for more information, see https://madronelandscapes.com/services/design/). This usually adds time to the overall design time, for good reason. Knowing construction costs during the design process allows you to make decisions on where to spend money and keeps the plan within the desired budget. A cost-informed design means the value engineering is done well before the project starts. The engineers, architects, and builders will be working together with the landscape designer to make sure that there are few unforeseen lapses between designs or construction activities. We become the expert advocate for you in design and construction and we handle scheduling and coordination with all parties involved.

Five Tips for Clients in Design-Build Landscaping

1. Know what you need/want before you start.

Often times a client will come to us with a list of items they want designed into their landscape, such as a patio, wall, fountain or pergola. What they may actually mean is that they need a shady place to entertain guests with pretty things to look at. While your spouse may want a fountain, he or she may appreciate boulders and flowers just as much. When you prioritize your goals before starting design, you can prevent being caught off guard during the design process. Design is almost always a team decision. If you can align your wants and needs before the design starts, your design will turn out better and go more quickly.

2. Establish a construction budget.

Before starting in the design process, establish a budget or range for what you intend to spend on construction, and share that information with your designer. This will help them design within range. Typically, the construction cost of landscapes is between 10 to 25 times the design fee, although this may vary.

3. Take your time with budget decisions.

During the beginning of the design process decisions are easy; we refer to this as the Honeymoon period. You may find yourself saying, “I love that stone veneer, it looks just like the picture I saw on Houzz!” After construction costs are introduced, major design elements may be on the chopping block. Do you keep the outdoor kitchen, or the stone paving? Allow yourself time, so you don’t rush these decisions.

4. Trust your gut – and your landscape team.

Taking on a big project will affect the ambiance of your daily life and the investment of your funds is hard to do alone. You need experts you can trust to help you achieve your goals. If you don’t have a level of trust with your landscape designer, it will not work. This means you need to feel comfortable giving them both positive and negative feedback, and they need to feel comfortable giving you good and bad news. Your designer will not only be helping you with the initial design, but also will be helping to navigate any obstacles encountered during construction.

5. Communicate often and clearly.

During design and construction, changes happen. In order to best facilitate these changes, we will ask a lot of questions to make sure we are designing efficiently. Whether you would like to give us artistic license on decisions, or you have particular opinions that need to be known, it is important you communicate your preferences clearly.

A Better Investment and Landscape

It’s our experience that the design-build process produces a better product with stronger teamwork and a healthy working relationship. The process takes time to do well. Expect two to six months of design before construction for custom residential updates, and often longer for new home or new commercial construction. Being well prepared can shorten this time frame. We want to establish a good relationship with you so that it can last through the design and construction. Since we’re nearly wrapping up the first quarter of 2019, getting a landscape designed and built in 2019 starts now. If you have new construction, you should consider hiring your landscape designer at the same time that you hire an architect. We strongly believe that the design-build relationship you foster with us will make you feel good about the investment and the landscape you create.

5 Landscape Design Tips for California Central Coast Tasting Rooms

5 Landscape Design Tips for California Central Coast Tasting Rooms

Landscape design plays an important role in the success of your winery. Here is the first of five tips to help build outdoor environments and experiences that positively impact your tasting room.

1. Be Unique and Memorable

Successful wineries develop a unique, one-of-a-kind brand identity. Branding themes can be artsy, luxury, pastoral, mom and pop, contemporary, natural, exclusive, or fun. Wineries often will include a blend of themes to create a distinct tasting experience.

For Example…

Brecon Estate Wines

Driving through the Paso Robles Adelaida zone, you will see many wineries with walls incorporated into their landscape architecture. When we designed and installed the wall at Brecon Estate, we knew it needed to be different from the others. Our Madrone Landscapes team elected to build a serpentine “Andrew Goldsworthy” style wall. This blended a feeling of contemporary oasis in a rustic vineyard setting, making it unique to this winery’s experience. The blend of outdoor open spaces and secluded zones work well and is site specific according to owner Damian Grindley. The contemporary flair combined with the countryside ambiance helps make customers feel at home. Damian describes the space as having a “relaxed Central Coast” vibe that appeals to a variety of customers. As a newer winery, this no-pressure, casual home-style atmosphere is a great way to build wine club membership and allow customers to take part in a new, exclusive experience.

Halter Ranch Vineyard

At another Paso Robles area winery, Halter Ranch Vineyard, the Madrone Landscapes team played off the pastoral farmland experience defined by the historic nature of the site. Kendall Carson of Halter Ranch describes it as an “Elegant Ranch” theme. We used bold masses of showy grasses, large trees, and vineyard connection to emphasize this theme. We also took advantage of the unbelievable view-sheds and wide-open spaces to make it feel larger than life. In some ways the vineyard architecture and vineyard landscape theme are very simple: Wood, stone, steel, vines, and oaks. The first glance at the grounds is stunning and remarkable, ingrained in the visitor’s memory. At closer look, very fine craftsmanship and art keep customers coming back to discover something new.

Tolosa Winery

Located in the Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo, the re-branding of Tolosa Winery was the story behind this landscape renovation. The winery made a very clear decision to make the brand more luxury, exclusive, and high end in both the wine making and the ambiance. As far as landscape, this meant changing over from open lawn areas to smaller intimate elegant areas under full grown olive trees, stone and rock. The environment is high end, but not stiff, and is very comfortable. General Manager, June McIvor describes it as “driving a Ferrari wearing jeans and flip flops.” The re-branding has been a success for the winery and visitors alike.

2. Make it Feel Special

A Special Treat

New and returning visitors to your winery need to feel that being at your tasting room is a treat. This can be described as a “wow factor”, or an unexpected glimpse into the mind of the winery. A variety of approaches can be used, but usually involves integration of unique features. Consider using outdoor art, paving patterns, colorful plantings, showcasing natural settings, or creating areas with a high-end luxury theme. Thoughtful selection of lounge-type furniture or intimate outdoor spaces can give customers a feeling of luxury not found at home. These elements lend well to developing a positive social environment created by your winery following. Kendall Carson (Halter Ranch) says that tasting rooms need to feel inviting, and be in tune with the property and surroundings, but also provide a “special feature” that makes guests want to plan another trip back.  In the end, this translates to more wine sales and more wine club members.

Exclusive

Many Central Coast wineries strive to give their customers a sense of being part of an exclusive club. Since our wine region is relatively new on the map, visitors realize they have found something special, by uncovering a gem in a beautiful pristine area. It will be interesting to watch the trends as the area is quickly gaining notoriety for exceptional wine and lifestyle.

3. Take Advantage of Your Site

Views

Vineyard architecture and vineyard landscapes often take advantage of the natural and agricultural surroundings. Damian Grindley (Brecon Estate) believes there is an intriguing contrast between the native California landscape and the “engineered lines” created by the vines in a vineyard. This look is so iconic that most vineyards will highlight sweeping views of vines and rolling native hills at their tasting room. When you have stunning views on your site, you can “borrow” them by using minimal landscape elements in front of the best vistas, or use trees to “frame” the view. These are great ways to maximize your landscape budget, since views of vines and hills can do much more for you than almost any landscape element.

Shade

Most visitors come to wineries in the summertime, and shade is very important here on the central coast of California. Trees, pergolas, and umbrellas provide cozy, snug areas for people to relax and enjoy the warm weather in a nature’s lounge room. If there are existing large trees, use them to create a natural comfortable area that people will gravitate towards.

Architecture

Often the vineyard architecture is already defined by the theme, so it is important to blend with the architecture of the building as much as the surroundings. Compliment the style with use of hardscape and planting to make the building more impressive. Some tasting room architecture will try and blend into the California landscape, and the landscape design should also focus on the surroundings. Some tasting rooms will be a monument standing out from nature, so the landscape design must emphasize the awe of the architectural form, while transitioning to the surroundings.

4. Create a Variety of Spaces

Entertaining Spaces

Most tasting rooms operate best with a variety of different spaces to fit the different preferences of visitors and functions of the winery. If you desire to host large events, a central large patio can be quite useful. However, most tasting room landscapes are a connection of smaller nooks to provide multiple intimate experiences for a large number of visitors. Also, the space becomes a social environment, not feeling empty with small crowds, and feeling comfortable with large crowds. In tip #2 we spoke about visitors liking a special and exclusive experience. A visitor may achieve this by finding their favorite nook in the landscape and returning to that special spot over the years. Everyone is different, so a variety of spaces, furniture, paving patterns, and shrubbery can break a large area into a successful multi-user experience.

User Experience

Preferences of tasting room visitors have interesting trends. Folks that are new to the tasting room experience like to go up to a tasting bar and stand during the tasting. Research shows that experienced tasting room visitors often prefer to sit down in a lounge-type area. They come to relax and unwind, and they don’t feel they are imposing when asking for drinks to be brought to them. These experienced tasters often buy more wine and are more likely to join the wine club. Wineries know this, and design both indoor and outdoor elements to provide ample comfortable seating. Other wineries provide entertainment areas with games or picnicking room. The bottom line is that comfortable seating nooks sell wine.

Tasting Room Logistics

Tasting room landscapes also need to work for the people operating the business. Often the central hub is the main tasting bar, so it is helpful to have visibility of all tasting areas for the attendants to best serve everyone efficiently. Open connection between indoors and outdoors feels good for the visitor, but also makes it easier for servers to navigate while carrying glasses of wine. It is crucial to speak with the tasting room staff to know how to best orchestrate the activities of the business. 

5. Design for Change

Flexible Space

Along with a variety of spaces, it is important to allow some spaces to be flexible to allow for several different types of entertainment. Damian Grindley (Brecon Estate) says their most useful space is the lawn area under a group of mature trees. He can change it to overflow seating or activities, but also downsize. June McIvor (Tolosa Winery) likes the flexibility of setting-up outdoor serving bars in different zones of the landscape. Kendall Carson (Halter Ranch) has planned countless events, and she believes electrical outlets are important to have all around the entertaining areas. Whether it is for lighting, a tasting bar, or a band stage, available electricity is very useful. It is impossible to anticipate exactly how a space will be used or changed over time. So, we recommend to build-in flexibility of use so you can make necessary changes both easily and cost effectively.

Pleasant Surprises

People like to return to their special tasting rooms, but they enjoy the excitement of small surprising changes. This is especially true at Brecon Estate where the furniture, art and layout has changed over time as the winery evolves and gains notoriety. They have done it for expanding entertainment area, but also visitors enjoy discovering something new each time, further investing themselves as part of the exclusive club that notices the transitions. Even seasonal changes in the new or existing plants can draw visitors back. A visitor may come in summer and hear about the fall color or the spring wildflowers. Often art displays are paired with the tasting experience, offering another product for purchase while changing over time. These features get visitors to come back again and again, always looking for something new.